bluedragon.jpg

One of the more hum'rous editorial mistakes in recent memory arrived last week in the August issue of Play magazine, where the table-of-contents page inadvertently uses the exact same artwork (in the exact same configuration) as the advertisement right next to it. Den-chan is just as confused about it as I am.

A question that's often thrown around magazine circles is how aware the editorial department is of the advertising that's placed in each issue of the title they work on. The answer is a firm, unequivocal "it depends." Namely, it depends on the magazine in question, the way the publisher and editor-in-chief run it, and so on. In my particular case,

I'm dimly aware of the advertisers for the issue of Newtype USA I'm working on, but that's not because I'm actively searching for that info -- it's because we deal with generally the same advertisers month in and month out, so I can predict what stuff they'll be advertising each month with relative ease. That knowledge has never influenced what I write about in the mag itself, because I'm an ethical professional with a responsibility to my readers, and furthermore we're located too far away from all the game publishers to go to any of their junkets.

So how did a gaffe like this get into Play? I'm not too sure, to be honest. Any number of things could've happened -- maybe the ad was a really, really late addition and no one thought to check where it was located. But it's just a small, amusing thing in what's otherwise a superb issue, so hopefully no one at Play will be too angry at me for pointing it out.

But that's not the top story in this roundup -- not when there's eleven new US magazines to catch up on this time around. Click on for the complete spread!

Official Xbox Magazine September 2007 (Podcast)

oxmus-0709.jpg

Cover: Grand Theft Auto IV

The big news coming out of Future this month (besides scoring this absolutely lovely cover image): OXM is putting up a fee-based digital edition, complete with "exclusive demos," on Xbox Live Marketplace, as Simon wrote about earlier. I personally have mixed feelings about the idea, even though I haven't seen anything they have in store quite yet -- I'm quite excited at the idea of OXM editors in video segments doing cool stuff just like the pseudo-"lifestyle" shows all the big websites do nowadays, but I worry that it'll be a hard sell to many gamers bitter about the whole "You have to pay for demos" thing. (The top demo this month is Beautiful Katamari, by the way, which is pretty darn hot.)

Moving on to the magazine, the front's mostly occupied by a preview feature, with Fallout 3 taking point and games like Endwar and Burnout Paradise following. The GTAIV feature is a bit nicer than GI's of several months back, if only because the art's so lovely. (The text also gives peeks into the single-player missions, which -- shock -- involve a lot of driving around and shooting people. The "My Game Sucked" coverline refers to Randy Pitchford's back-page column, where he discusses the financial truth behind movie-license games and revealed his involvement in a certain 007 game.

And that's the mag, really. Future's Cell Play supplement takes up 16 pages in the middle of the book (as it does in the rest of Future's titles this month), and... well, having good game mags go down to 100 pages is disappointing enough, but then having 16 of those pages taken up by something that nobody bought the magazine to read is kind of hard to swallow. I mean it, I'm crying my eyes out as I play Katamari here.

PSM September 2007 (Podcast)

psm-0709.jpg

Cover: Grand Theft Auto IV

Pretty much the same GTAIV feature in PSM (with different screens) along with new looks at Beowulf and Condemned 2, as well as a funny EGM-style two-page piece on a psychiatrist who uses GTA as part of therapy for child patients.

But the big feature here is devoted to the magazine's 10th anniversary. I have a near-neurotic weakness for anniversary features (I still think GamePro's 200th issue was one of their shining moments), but this one isn't the best I've seen -- the brunt of it is on the history of the PlayStation, not PSM itself. And some of that history's kind of suspect, suggesting that the PC Engine and Mega CD existed in 1986 and misspelling the company name Philips in the text even though Philips' logo is on the same page. GamePro's retrospective was cool because it was packed with little in-jokey tidbits from the magazine's history...not to make unfair comparisons or anything, but.

Play August 2007

play-0708.jpg

Cover: Blue Dragon

Play's cover art is the same used by Game Informer a few months back, but I'll forgive them because (puts on "I'M AN ELITE INSIDER" cap) there isn't a great deal of hand-drawn art to work with on this title from Microsoft's end. The review/feature goes on for nine pages and includes a Sakaguchi interview, and together it's really just Play at its best -- smart and fannishly devoted. (Dave Halverson writing a two-page preview of Looney Tunes: Acme Arsenal and giving Ratatouille an 8.0 review later on is also Play at its best. In my opinion, anyway.)

Other highlights include the crossfire between Nick Rox and Casey Loe over Zelda: The Phantom Hourglass and the sheer volume of interviews this issue -- it seems like nearly every major preview this time around includes a lengthy dev talk. That's the sort of thing I like to see.

Game Informer August 2007

gi-0708.jpg

After stringing several blockbuster covers together in a row, GI turns it down a notch with Prototype, a game so far away from release that I guess this screenshot on the cover (which is aggressively brown and features the hero's left leg clipping a bit into the prone soldier) was the best among a very small pool of art. The feature inside's quite a lot nicer, though, kind of reading like a "pre-mortem" (as opposed to Game Developer's postmortems) as it explains Radical Entertainment's pedigree, the freedom allowed to them for Prototype, and what they intend to do with it. I frequently pick on GI's cover features for being too vague and filler-y, but here the writer did the smart thing by making the text as much about the guys behind the game as the game itself.

(The second feature, on Darksiders, is similar in style except devoted to a title which frankly doesn't seem quite as interesting. I always appreciate coverage of non-license non-sequels, though.)

Games for Windows: The Official Magazine August 2007 (Podcast)

gfw-0708.jpg

Cover: Gears of War

I didn't notice the box on the upper-right corner of the cover 'til now and it's had me LOL'ing for the past half minute. Bravo.

It seems like a while since GFW crept into my mailbox, and I'm glad to see it back, 'cos plainly they're giving their best on every single page. (OK, minus the Microsoft advertising section in the back. But nobody's perfect.) Features up front include bits on Fallout 3, Line Rider, Call of Duty 4's multiplayer, and video games as used in assorted medical research, and an awesome (if, sadly, completely fabricated) Seanbaby interview with an actor who made his career in FMV games. It's followed up by further bits on the World Series of Video Games, an interview with Brian Fargo (founder of Interplay), and the yearly installment of CGW/GFW's Hall of Fame, into which four new games (Dungeon Keeper, Dune II, GTAIII, Maniac Mansion) and one dev (Peter Molyneux) get inducted.

In short, a bloody ton of neat content. And we haven't even gotten to the cover feature yet, which is 14 pages of bloody screenshots and Cliffy -- two great tastes that go great together. Or the hilarious Shadowrun review. (It seems like Game Mag Weaseling favorite Sean Molloy gets to review all the bad games this issue, which makes them doubly great to read.) Or Tom and Bruce competing against each other in Peggle and Solitaire. Man, I love GFW.

PC Gamer September 2007 (Podcast)

pcgamer-0709.jpg

Cover: Space Siege

I think this is the first time a game mag's dared to put a developer's face on the cover since Computer Games did it with Sid Meier's Railroads! -- and we all know what happened to Computer Games, don't we? It's arguably well-deserved, though, since Supreme Commander was (and is) an obsession for the PC marketplace for more than a little while, and PC Gamer spends eight pages talking with Chris Taylor and trying to figure why this action RPG he's working on will be quite nice.

Otherwise, this issue of PC Gamer is pretty utilitarian, especially with its helpful look at all the game-download services available on the net right now. The mag also has an extensive number of columns in the back these days, similar to Edge in style -- Richard Garriott still leads the pack by far, but Brett Todd's monthly modding column also has a lot of neato-keen stuff to digest.

Game Developer Game Career Guide Fall 2007

gd-2007careerguide.jpg

Game Developer's annual career guide is on newsstands right now, and as always, it's quite nice if you have any interest in the subject -- basically reading like a typical Game Developer issue, except without any of the mind-bending programming or graphical topics. Highlights include articles on average salaries and how helpful being a modder is in the job search, as well as a "day in the life" type piece that chronicles the average workday for a lead programmer, art director, and designer/writer. (The programmer's the only one who seems to get home at a decent hour. I know who I'm gonna be when I grow up.)

The mag's advertising is just as alluring in places, featuring pieces from what seems like 500 different game schools and academies, including a particularly ugly one for DeVry. Hey, Houston Community College has an associate degree in gaming for artists and programmers! Screw this writing BS! I'm outta here!

Nintendo Power September 2007

np-0709.jpg

Cover: Metroid Prime 3: Corruption

I haven't heard anything further on Nintendo Power's future since Perrin revealed the title would be sold, come to think of it. Ex-OPM staffer Giancaro Varanini left NP not long after the news hit, but it seems like the rest of the gang is still there and still truckin' -- and, of course, there's no mention of any shenanigans in the magazine itself.

This issue is strong as always, if not all that unique. The features on Metroid and Smash Bros. Brawl are nice and informative, but it's the developer profile of Koji Igarashi (along with the humorous art in the Raging Rabbids 2 first look) that you'll remember in the long run.

Hardcore Gamer August 2007

hcg26.jpg

Cover: Stranglehold

HGM continues to be HGM, with lots of full-page GameFan-style previews and super text-heavy features (this time on Stranglehold, football games, and the recent Codemasters gamers' day).

I should probably note ('cos I haven't yet) that Gamecock Media has a regular column in Hardcore Gamer where the Cock himself (presumably) discusses the vagaries of launching an independent publisher what you, the reader, can do to keep them afloat. It reads kind of like advertising most months, but it still has its occasional moments.

Beckett Massive Online Gamer August/September 2007

beckettmog8.jpg

Cover: Sword of the New World

Beckett MOG has a ton of advertising this month. It's like every ongoing MMO and MMO accessory outfit (including the two-bit Korean free-to-play-but-you-gotta-pay-for-anything-useful MMORPGs) decided to place ads in the mag all at once. There's even a strategy guide for something called Tales of Pirates that I'm pretty sure was paid for, since the art design is different and it's printed on different paper stock from the rest of the magazine. If all these ads were paid for, then Beckett MOG had a pretty good month, I'd say. (If only MASSIVE/MMO Games coulda survived until it had this sort of support...)

Contentwise, it's the same as always -- long strategy bits on Sword of the New World, the LOTR expansion, and WOW, along with wordy interviews with the Warhammer and Lineage II guys. For the most part, interesting only if you've already got a vested involvement with the game(s) in question.

Beckett Spotlight: Sports Video Gamer

beckettsports02.jpg

Look at this! It's a one-off special obviously targeted at the 2 million or so Americans who line up at the store to buy Madden every year and then purchase nothing else until the next one comes out.

This issue doesn't seem to be sponsored by EA in any way, but it covers nothing but Madden, NCAA, and other EA titles for all of its 84 pages. And lord, does it cover it! There's interviews with the NCAA and Madden coverboys, several previews of Madden '08, a look back at the Madden jinx and EA Trax from past years, several pages of NFL players commenting on the game, tournament coverage, stats, strategies by team... it just goes on and on, and for gamers hungry for info but lacking the Internet, I can see the allure in a mag like this.

For the more hardcore among us, this mag is mainly a source of humor, best personified in a photo where a copy of Beckett Sports Video Gamer is poorly Photoshopped into the hands of the Titans' Paul Williams.

[Kevin Gifford breeds ferrets and runs Magweasel, a site for collectors and fans of old video-game and computer magazines. He's also an editor at Newtype USA magazine.]